The parents of a 10-year-old Virginia girl who died of COVID-19 after her teacher assigned her the role of “class nurse” tore into the school on Saturday for what they described as a half-hearted investigation into her death.
Teresa Sperry died Sept. 27, just five days after she started experiencing a headache—and six days after her parents say she was tasked with walking sick children to the nurse’s office. Her parents weren’t even informed she had tested positive until two days after her death.
She was conscripted into the role of class nurse at her school, Hillpoint Elementary, on Sept. 21, which required her to accompany sick students on their way to the nurse, according to the school’s report. The school has maintained, however, that strict protocols were in place when dealing with any children exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
The school’s report makes no mention of any times when Sperry may have been exposed to the virus, instead finding that she had walked a student to the nurse’s office for an inhaler and an arm injury two days before she first experienced a headache, which then developed into more severe symptoms. Her teacher told investigators that neither Teresa nor the student she was helping exhibited symptoms at the time, nor did Teresa have to help students who did appear to be infected, the report states. Obligating a student to escort sick students to the nurse at all reportedly ran counter to Suffolk Public Schools COVID-19 protocols, however.
Her father, Jeff Sperry, told The Virginian-Pilot, “They made her do this job without parental consent. Having a child walk students to the nurse during the pandemic? It is nonsense. It is insane. Had anybody asked me or informed me, I would have said no.”
The three-page report on the 10-year-old’s death showed no effort to conduct thorough contact tracing, according to her parents. They obtained the dossier on Teresa’s death through a Freedom of Information Act request. The school did not voluntarily provide it to them.
“If you print it out, it is three pages,” her mother Nicole Sperry added. “If they really wanted to do contact tracing they would have done more.”
Teresa’s parents feel the school has failed to help them understand what happened to their daughter.
“I feel that the investigation report is incredibly incomplete,” Jeff Sperry said. “How do they know who she was around while she sat outside the nurse’s clinic? They did not look at the cameras. There is nothing in it about interviewing the security guard, who would have seen my daughter going to the clinic. They did not interview anyone else that would have seen her.”
Suffolk Public Schools said in a statement to the Pilot that no protocols had been broken: “Students who attend Hillpoint Elementary School who are suspected of having COVID symptoms are reported to the nurse or office with a phone call to indicate a suspected ‘Code C.’”
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